The Bodhisatta was once a king. His mother was a cruel, harsh, unruly woman, but the Bodhisatta felt it would be too disrespectful for him to say anything about it. One time while walking with her though the palace grounds, a blue jay screeched and the servants yelled, “What a harsh shriek. Shut up, already!” Later they heard a cuckoo sing a sweet song and everybody around stopped to listen carefully to its sweet voice, saying, “Sing away, Birdie. Sing away!” Now the Bodhisatta saw his opportunity to rebuke his mother’s behavior. He pointed out to her that the beautiful, colorful bird had a harsh voice that annoys people while the mottled grey bird was very popular and pleasant to the ear. This showed that being gentle and sweet was the best way to behave. His mother understood his wise advice and completely changed her ways.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
Anathapindika, a wealthy supporter of the Buddha known for his extreme generosity, had an arrogant, cruel, and violent daughter-in-law (the king’s mother was her in an earlier birth) who hurled abuse and hard blows to people around the house day and night, and never helped her husband or anyone else in the family. She had absolutely no good qualities.
One day the Buddha and five hundred disciples visited Anathapindika’s home and while the Buddha was talking, the daughter-in-law could be heard scolding some servants. The Buddha stopped his discourse and asked what the clamor was about. After hearing about the daughter-in-law’s intolerable behavior, he asked to speak with her. The Buddha explained that there are seven kinds of wives and asked which of them she was. The Destroyer wife hates her husband and ruins every good thing he does; the Thief wife is only interested in taking money; the High and Mighty wife is lazy, greedy, rude, and tyrannical; the Motherly wife is compassionate and protective; the Sisterly wife is modest, respectful, and obedient; the Friendly wife is virtuous and aims to please; and the Slave wife is calm and patient, bending completely to her husband’s will. The first three, he added, are destined to hell.
Immediately after hearing his lesson, the daughter-in-law stopped her evil ways and started to live a religious life. She said from then on out, she would be a Slavish wife and asked for forgiveness.
When the Buddha later heard some disciples discussing her conversion, he told them this story so they knew he had also tamed this woman in the past.